Ralph Ghoche is a historian of nineteenth-century architecture and urbanism and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Architecture at Barnard College, Columbia University. He holds professional and post-professional degrees in architecture from McGill University and a PhD in the history and theory of architecture from Columbia University. His current research looks at Algeria in the first decades of French colonization, with particular attention paid to the urban interventions of the Catholic Church in Algiers. Ghoche has also written widely on French architecture and its relationship to theories of ornament, archeology and aesthetics in the 19th century. His book-length study of these themes will be published by McGill-Queen’s University Press in 2020.
Dr. Ghoche will join us on November 25th, at Columbia Global Centers | Tunis for a talk about " Erasing the Ketchaoua Mosque: Catholicism, Assimilation, and Civic identity in France and Algeria ".
The lecture looks at the French policy in colonial Algeria of forcibly converting Muslim religious buildings in light of the recent debates around the building of mosques in Europe. It is focused on the case of the Ketchaoua Mosque in Algiers, seized by French officials in 1832 and rebuilt into a cathedral over the next decades. The resulting Arabizing forms of the cathedral are related to the assimilationist ideals of the Catholic Church and their effort to employ the outward expressions of Algerian culture as a clandestine measure to destroy Algerian religious identity.
Ralph Ghoche’s larger project looks at the territorial interventions of the Catholic Church in Algiers in the nineteenth-century. It examines how the Church reshaped urban space in Algiers through the construction and conversion of buildings in order to advance its aim of resurrecting Augustinian Christendom in North Africa. The project seeks to uncover the complex relationship between the church and the multiple actors who helped reconfigure Algiers into a French and largely Christian city. It is structured around three urban practices: the conversion of Muslim institutions, the consolidation of urban focal points as symbolic cynosures of Christian power, and the aesthetic expression of the buildings themselves and the hidden forms of violence perpetuated by these material forms of representation.